I am a little loath to write about this, because I haven’t seen the full address that Cardinal Koch gave to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity at their Plenary gathering. Usually this is published in their four-monthly journal “Information Service”, which generally is about 6 months behind when it arrives in English in Melbourne. Don’t expect to see it on the net. (Note to the new President: the PCPCU’s page on the Vatican website is not updated very regularly, and could contain a great deal more news and information.)
So we have to rely upon http://www.thetablet.co.uk/article/15558|of what he said. Note that he would not have been talking in English – he is still learning the language – and so this is either The Tablet’s translation, or an English translation provided at the Plenary which some member of the Council has made available to The Tablet. So, given that the language is a bit technical, we should perhaps be careful (remember the very recent problem on the Pope’s original German on the condom issue).
Any way, this is what The Tablet reports:
“It is decisively in this postmodern mentality characterised by pluralistic and relativistic tendencies that is found the great challenge to the search for visible unity of the Church of Jesus Christ,” the Swiss archbishop said on Monday at the opening of the PCPCU plenary assembly in Rome marking the fiftieth anniversary of the pontifical council. In a theologically dense address to his first PCPCU plenary since becoming president last July, he said this mentality was found among not only Protestants but also “many Catholics”.
The PCPCU president, who is to be made a cardinal in today’s consistory, said the current crisis of ecumenism boiled down to what he called the two “profoundly different mentalities” that shape the way Catholics and Protestants describe the nature of the Church.
“The Churches and ecclesial communities born of the Reform have renounced the original objective of ecumenism as visible unity and have substituted it with the concept of mutual recognition as Churches,” he said.
Cardinal-elect Koch said the Churches of the Reform were marked by the “grave phenomenon of ecclesial fragmentation” and had thus adopted an “ecclesiological pluralism”. He said this sees the goal of ecumenism as “reconciled diversity” of many Churches rather than the reconstitution of visible unity (while accepting diversity) in one Church. The cardinal-elect claimed that Protestant “pluralism” among different confessional Churches “contrasts with Catholic conviction that the true Church of Jesus Christ ‘subsists’ in the Catholic Church, in other words that she is already an existing reality”. “It is clear that there is a profound difference between this Protestant view and the Catholic and Orthodox interpretation according to which the ecumenical objective cannot be inter-communion but ‘communion’, within which eucharistic communion also finds its place,” he said.
This came up on William Tighe’s email discussion list the other day, and Orthodox commentator, Chris Jones, had this to say:
Cdl Koch contrasts “the original objective of ecumenism as visible unity” with “the concept of mutual recognition as Churches.” But there is nothing “invisible” about mutual recognition as Churches; that is the ecclesiology that obtained in the first millennium and continues among the Orthodox Churches today. By contrasting an ecclesiology of “mutual recognition” with something he calls “visible unity”, the Cardinal can only mean a unity that is “visible” specifically by being in one Church body with (and, of course, under) the Pope.
The difficulty with the approach of most (if not all) of the Protestant bodies involved with the ecumenical movement is not that they envisage an ecclesiology of “mutual recognition” among Churches, but that they have a minimalist understanding of exactly what it is that is being “mutually recognized.” A genuinely Catholic mutual recognition is a recognition of full agreement in the faith, grounded in a genuinely shared tradition handed down from the Apostles, held with a true Scriptural and Patristic mind, and expressed and lived in a traditional liturgical life. That is quite different from an “agreement to disagree” but still somehow “recognize” one another; or, worse, an agreement to a set of texts to which each party assigns a wildly different interpretation.
Nevertheless, by denigrating the notion of mutual recognition among diverse but genuinely Catholic Churches, Cardinal Koch makes a mockery of then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s famous dictum that Papal primacy need be accepted only as it was formulated and practiced in the first millennium; because that refers precisely to a context of mutual recognition among distinct Churches. I cannot help but wonder how Cardinal Koch’s remarks will be received among the clergy and faithful of the non-Roman sui juris Churches. Surely it will be news to them that there can be no true unity by mutual recognition among “true particular Churches.”
Chris, I think you are obfiscating the issue here.
“Visible unity” of the Churches naturally means visible ties of communion with each local Church. Since the Bishop of Rome is a bishop of a local church, as is the Bishop of Constantinople and the Bishop of Melbourne etc., “visible unity” naturally would mean “unity with the Bishop of Rome” (and, “with the Bishop of Constantinople and the Bishop of Melbourne etc”). Such “visible unity”, which is more than a “mutual recognition” does justice to the notion of “Church” in the sense of the Una Sancta, rather than an ecclesiology which sees the universal church as a “federation” of local Churches.
In this “visible unity”, the question of communion of local churches is primary and the question of primacy of the heads of the local churches is secondary. Communion need not necessarily entail jurisdiction. There is no reason why you should interpret Cardinal Koch’s statement in contradiction to the Cardinal Ratzinger’s.
“obfuscating the issue”
I think not. I have no quarrel with what you wrote, and there is no conflict between an ecclesiology of mutual recognition and a concrete visible unity — nor with a robust notion of primacy. But what you wrote was and what Cdl Koch said are two different things. He did not present mutual recognition and visible unity as complementary (as you did), but as strongly contrasting, with an ecclesiology of mutual recognition as unacceptable. In my view he spoke very sloppily. He was taking aim, of course, at the Protestants, but what he actually said would, if true, put the Orthodox Churches out of court as well. I should hope that a prelate whose portfolio is Christian unity would choose his words much more carefully.
And I responded:
Dear Chris (and others listening in)
1) we don’t have the original document that Cardinal Koch presented, only the Tablet report. I think we should wait until the full plenary paper is available before judging the Cardinal. We don’t want to set some sort of new precedance by taking what The Tablet says as “gospel”, do we! :-)
2) I think the problem is with the term “mutual recognition”. Remember that he is talking about protestant “churches”, not Orthodox Churches. We already “mutually recognise” the Orthodox, and in that case, “mutual recognition” and communion are complimentary. But we don’t recognise the ecclesial integrity of the protestant communities – they are not “[local particular] Churches in the proper sense” as Dominus Iesus put it. The evident protestant ecumenism presents an ecclesiology of “mutual recognition” along the lines of the many agreements in the USA, eg. between the Episcopal Church and the ELCA and the Churches of Christ. This is quite a different ecclesiology at work. As institutions these bodies intend to remain quite independant of each other, often with quite separate ministries and sacramental orders, and little agreement on the Faith. This is “mutual recognition” reduced to open house eucharistic sharing, with no corresponding unity of Faith and Order.
Does that help?
And he responded:
“Does that help?”
A little bit, I guess. I certainly understand that Cdl Koch was talking about Protestant groups, not Orthodox. But in his concern to distinguish Protestant ecclesiology from Catholic, he has unwittingly (and needlessly) trashed Orthodox ecclesiology into the bargain. Perhaps, as you suggest, the full text of his remarks would allay this concern; let us hope so.
It is not quite true, BTW, to say “we already ‘mutually recognise’ the Orthodox.” You do; but they don’t. So it cannot be said to be mutual.
There are several issues here:
1) What Cardinal Koch meant by the “mutual recognition” formula of Protestant ecumenism
2) What difference he meant to imply by contrasting “intercommunion” with “communion”
3) The fact that he did not have Orthodox ecclesiology in mind (he spoke of “a profound difference between this Protestant view and the Catholic and Orthodox interpretation”)
The problem goes back, as I see it, to the definition of a Church “in the proper sense” in the 2000 document Dominus Iesus. There it was clarified that “the proper sense” of Church in Catholic/Orthodox ecclesiology is either the Church as the Una Sancta OR a true, local, particular Church. The latter is defined as a Christian ecclesial community which a valid bishop as its head, a valid priesthood, and (as follows from this) has maintained a valid eucharist.
With such “Churches in the proper sense” it is possible for true, local, Catholic Churches to seek “mutual recognition” (we already recognise the Orthodox Churches, even though, as Chris points out, this isn’t “mutual”). It is not possible for the Catholic Church as the Una Sancta to “mutually recognise” independent Christian ecclesial communions as true Churches “in the proper sense”. It IS possible – and indeed desirable – for the Catholic Church to do all it can by means of dialogue to seek “full communion” with such bodies, in which there is a mutual sharing of gifts, including the gift (from our end) of valid episcopate, priesthood and eucharist. This is, more or less, and in a particular way (although this “model” is not promoted as the ONLY way for this to happen) what has happened with the Anglicans coming into communion with the Catholic Church.
What Cardinal Koch has said is quite true, however, in my experience of ecumenism with Protestants. There does seem to be a lessening of desire to seek real communal unity among Protestants. Consider the way in which the Uniting Church formed in Australia back in the ’70’s. Then, the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational churches formed a new ecclesial body, united in ministry and in practice and in a single visible institution. The same thing happened in America when the ELCA was formed. That sort of thing has ceased to happen among Protestants today. Rather there has been a whole raft of agreements for “mutual recognition” and “intercommunion”. For eg., the Episcopal Church in the US and the ELCA are in “intercommunion” with each other, but the ELCA has baulked at the suggestion that all its bishops must be reordained as valid Anglican bishops. They maintain a completely separate identity. The same could be said for Australia, where the Uniting Church and the Churches of Christ have agreed upon not only “intercommunion” but a complete “sharing of ministries”. Yet the Churches of Christ have not joined the Uniting Church. They remain – in terms of governance and daily life – separate communities.
That is not the model that the Catholic Church desires to pursue as a vision of “full visible unity”. We seek “full communion” with all our brothers and sisters in Christ. This communion will still – of course – be a communion in diversity, as it is with the Eastern Churches with whom we are in full communion at this very moment. The question of governance – Chris’s concern with “jurisdiction” is a separate issue, and even now the Church is seeking appropriate ways to properly express the true particular identity of our Eastern Rites in Communion with the Bishop of Rome. If it is objected that this model necessarily includes a place for the Pope, well, the Pope is a Christian, isn’t he? And full visible communion among all Christians would have to include him. Of course, just how he would exercise the ministry proper to his office in this regard is a question that Pope John Paul II already raised in his 1995 encyclical “Ut Unum Sint”. Unfortunately, there has been a almost deafening silence in regard to his invitation for discussion on this matter.
There is and remains a gulf between the ecclesiologies of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches on the one hand and the ecclesiologies of the Protestant communions. It may not be a wide gulf, but it is a deep one.